In an effort to help member libraries negotiate acquisitions of e-books to lend, the American Library Association (ALA) issued the E-Book Business ModelScorecard to use in sizing up publishers’ e-book programs.
Released Jan. 25 just as ALA’s Midwinter Meeting was getting underway in Seattle, WA, the scorecard is a follow-up to the association’s August 2012 report E-Book Business Models for Public Libraries. Both are part of ALA’s increasingly intensive campaign to pressure publishers into making more e-books available to libraries, especially frontlist titles, and at more lenient terms.
In particular, ALA wants libraries to be able to own e-books outright, not license them, a scenario that scares the pants off publishers fearful that easy and unlimited e-book borrowing means patrons will never again buy a book.
The scorecard lists 15 factors to consider, each with a five-point rating scale. For example, no. 8 deals with the number of loans a publisher allows for each “purchased” e-book: one point for none, three for a fixed number, four if the limit is retired after a certain amount of time or the title goes out of print, and five if the library can actually own the e-books and/or resell ones that no one borrows.
About the same time the scorecard came out, ALA learned Macmillan is finally getting its library e-book pilot off the ground. While libraries are pleased another big publisher is testing e-book loans, the pilot comes with plenty of restrictions from the library perspective. Only backlist titles from the Minotaur mystery/crime imprint will be available, about 1,200 in all. For $25 per title, libraries buy the right to lend it out 52 times (one borrower at a time) or for a two-year period, whichever comes first. After that, they’ll have to pay another $25 to loan it again.
Penguin, which has been conducting a pilot program in New York libraries, is expanding it to other libraries. The program gives libraries access to e-books about six months after their release to the consumer market. As in the Macmillan pilot, libraries don’t own the title but license loaning rights for one year.